EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

07.01.13

Software Patents and the FTC’s Red Herring

Posted in Patents at 11:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Red herring

Summary: The core problem with the USPTO remains unchallenged because the wrong problem — or a symptom rather — is being described and slowly addressed

The USPTO has been harbouring a culture of patenting, motivated for the most part by large corporations’ desire to have mechanisms of protectionism in place, barring or weighing down emerging competition (sometimes domestic but especially foreign). The illusion of a ‘free market’ should be warped to speak of unregulated markets where large corporations are free to do as they please, always assured that the government that they pay will protect them when the need arises, be it by patent monopolies or even espionage overseas (see Cablegate on Boeing for examples). In this culture where offices like the patent office are run by people who came from large corporations (revolving doors) it is not surprising that even so-called ‘reforms’ are structured to benefit large corporations.

According to this report from the corporate media, the US government (a branch of it) “said it created a pilot program in which its six administrative judges will in some cases determine within 100 days if companies that sue for infringement have adequate U.S. production, research or licensing to use the court.”

“In this culture where offices like the patent office are run by people who came from large corporations (revolving doors) it is not surprising that even so-called ‘reforms’ are structured to benefit large corporations.”This is not the right thing to do [1, 2, 3, 4]. What they need to do is assess the quality and especially the scope of the patents, irrespective of the plaintiff. They are doing a sort of ad hominem disservice by looking at a real issue which is nevertheless not the core issue.

Well, citing the pro-software patents blog that lobbies on scope and defends trolls, Groklaw names David Kappos, former head of the USPTO and an IBM faithful. Pamela Jones writes: “This is why Kappos failed. He misunderstood what the criticism of the patent system is about. It has *nothing* to do with a reluctance to pay. It’s about protecting innovation in a system that has allowed such broad functional claiming, blocking off entire areas of software development, that no one can innovate safely any more. That damages the patent system and the economy and it brings innovation to a halt. The rest is ideology and daydreams.”

The FTC is not going to resolve the overall problem even if it tackles patent trolls. The problem is not correctly identified, just a symptom of this problem. As some wise person noted the other day, there is no good understanding of these issues, so the commission will fail. To quote:

First, it notes that the chairwoman of the FTC is expected to recommend an investigation of patent trolls (or “frivolous patent lawsuits” as specified in the headline). The promised further action has not been confirmed, so we will have to wait and see.

The Times then slid around the “patent troll” name and henceforth called them by the less pejorative “patent-assertion entity” or PAE. Still, adding some weight to the promise of action was the “several executive orders” from President Obama “directing executive agencies to take steps to take steps to ‘protect innovators from frivolous litigation.’”

The article goes on to describe patent trolls as typically having no operations other than collecting royalties on patents and says that they accounted for more than 60 percent of the roughly 4,000 patent lawsuits filed last year, up from 29 percent two years earlier.

But then the article notes one company that calls itself a “patent-licensing company,” raising the question of “what’s in a name”.

In any case, the Times expects the full commission (two Democrats and two Republicans, with one seat empty), to approve a study.

What they fail to see is that a large company like Microsoft is also engaged in patent assertion. Some say Microsoft makes billions of dollars this way, at the expense of those who actually sell products that customers want. It makes Microsoft not all that different from patent trolls. Sometimes Microsoft uses a proxy like Vringo, which Troll Tracker describes as follows today:

But is that really what Vringo is doing? Are they taking someone’s IP and making something useful out of it, because that person/company cannot? Or are they taking patents that were sold to them by, oh, I dunno, Microsoft just for instance, and using them as a bully stick with which to beat other companies who have already manufactured something of good use and likely didn’t even infringe but will settle so they don’t have to litigate? That’s what would be a bad thing, right?

To get an example of classic patent trolls, see this new article from Joe Mullin, who says that “With so many patents out there claiming rights to basic Web-based technologies, at this point there aren’t many businesses in America that are unaffected by so-called “patent trolls.” But one troll, ArrivalStar, found a fresh set of targets that earned it serious scorn: public transit systems.”

Here is another article about it. “For several years now,” it says, “a curious company called ArrivalStar – which has no website, appears to produce nothing, and is oddly registered in Luxembourg – has been systematically suing public transit agencies in the United States. As we wrote last April, the company holds a collection of dubious patents tied to the technology of tracking vehicles in motion. And it has been using them to claim patent infringement by transit agencies that … track vehicles in motion.”

“At the end of the day the largest corporations will benefit and everyone else will suffer even more.”This is starting to get a lot of national coverage.Public transit agencies across US say they’re being squeezed by questionable patent lawsuits, according to the Washington Post. Another article says that “A patent holding company has filed eight lawsuits against U.S. banking institutions in recent weeks, claiming patent infringement on products and services related to security and electronic banking.”

What makes this troll a problem is that it hurts the rich, and therefore politicians will go after it with great passion. To Quote further: “In some cases, the patents mentioned in these suits are alleged to cover basic banking functions and features used in ATM and online-banking transactions. In other cases, even cryptography methods used to conform to security standards, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, have been brought into question, Denaro says.”

A simple ban on software and business method patents would resolve this, but the government goes after those entities not because of their patents but because of their business model. What a red herring this is. At the end of the day the largest corporations will benefit and everyone else will suffer even more.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Rumour: EPO in Berlin the Next Casualty of Battistelli's 'Reform' (Organisational Suicide Plan)

    Months after we learned that a former staff representative in Berlin had been dismissed we come across an anonymous claim that Berlin's 'branch' of the EPO will be folded onto Munich's



  2. Caricature: the Maas App

    The failure of Maas to even bother with regulation of Battistelli (among others) earns him this cartoon



  3. Links 5/12/2016: Linux 4.9 RC 8, DeepMind as FOSS

    Links for the day



  4. Leaked: Battistelli Acknowledges Bunk 'Justice' in About 100 Cases at the Internal Appeals Committee of the EPO

    A look at Battistelli's response to the latest from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), exceptionally delivering two decisions at the very end of last month



  5. The UPC Scam Part V: Unitary Patent Regime a Fantasy of Patent Trolls

    "Good for trolls" is a good way to sum up the Unitary Patent, which would give litigators plenty of business (defendants and plaintiffs, plus commissions on high claims of damages) if it ever became a reality



  6. EPO at a Tipping Point: Battistelli Quarrelling With French Politicians, Administrative Council Urged to Act, Staff Unrest Peaking

    The latest messages about Battistelli's regime at the EPO, which faces growing opposition from more directions than ever before



  7. Quality of Patents at the EPO Dependent on the Appeal Boards When Battistelli Assesses Performance Using the Wrong 'Production' Yardstick

    A look at some recent articles regarding patent quality in the US and in Europe, in particular because of growing trouble at today's EPO, which marginalises the appeal boards



  8. Microsoft's Push for Software Patents Another Reminder That There is No 'New' Microsoft

    Microsoft's continued fascination with and participation in the effort to undermine Alice so as to make software patents, which the company uses to blackmail GNU/Linux vendors, widely acceptable and applicable again



  9. Links 5/12/2016: SparkyLinux 4.5 Released, Kondik Exits Cyanogen (Destroyed After Microsoft Deal)

    Links for the day



  10. Software Patents Continue Their Invalidation Process, But Patent Law Firms Try to Deny This in Order to Attract Misinformed (or Poorly-Informed) Clients

    A roundup of news about software patents and demonstration of the sheer bias in the media, which is mostly controlled or steered by the patent microcosm rather than actual inventors



  11. Patent Trolls of Microsoft and Ericsson Are Trying to Tax Everything, Especially Linux Devices

    An update on Intellectual Ventures and Unwired Planet, whose operations pose a growing problem for Free software and Linux-based products (e.g. Android)



  12. Asia's Patent Litigation Chaos Getting Worse, Reaching Countries in the West, and Sites Like IAM Actively Promote This

    The race to the bottom (of patent quality) in China, the growth of patent trolls in the region, and the ruinous litigation strategy which now spills over even to the US -- through the Eastern District of Texas -- and may inevitably come to Europe (especially if the UPC ever becomes a reality)



  13. More French Politicians Are Complaining That Benoît Battistelli is a Disgrace to France and Urge for Action

    The backlash against Battistelli spills well outside the EPO and is now apparent even at the French National Assembly



  14. Links 3/12/2016: Mageia 5.1 Released, Mozilla Revenue at $421.3M

    Links for the day



  15. Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) Sees Decline in Patent Applications and It May Actually be a Good Thing

    Challenging the false belief that the more patents society has the better off it will be, citing examples and news from north America



  16. Blockchain Domain Infested With Software Patents, MasterCard Among the Culprits

    Worrying signs that an area of Free/Open Source software innovation is getting impacted by the plague of software patents



  17. Dutch Media Covers Latest EPO Scandals, German Media Totally Absent (a Media Blackout of Convenience)

    Our observations regarding the apparent media disinterest in EPO scandals, especially at the very core of the EPO (principal host country)



  18. Relocating the Boards of Appeal to Haar is a Poisonous Priority at Battistelli's EPO

    Revisiting Battistelli's effort to chop off the appeal boards that are necessary for ensuring patent quality at the EPO



  19. Links 2/12/2016: Mint Betas, Chrome 55, KDevelop 5.0.3, PHP 7.1.0

    Links for the day



  20. The Rule of Law and Justice Don't Exist Inside the EPO, Confirms the International Labour Organisation (ILO)

    Further analysis of the latest rulings from the ILO -- decisions that were long expected



  21. A Day in the Life of... Battistelli's Banana Republic

    This is part 5 of a fictional diary from the EPO



  22. Links 1/12/2016: Devuan Beta, R3 Liberates Code

    Links for the day



  23. Two ILO Decisions on EPO Cases Are Released, at Least One Judgment is Considered Good for Staff

    Years later (as justice is too slow, partly because of the EPO, being the principal culprit that clogs up the ILO's tribunal system) there is a couple of new judgments about EPO abuses against staff



  24. Dutch and French Politicians Complain About the European Patent Office, British Media Coverage Regular Now

    Pressure from the political systems, the scientific community and from the media is growing, as it becomes abundantly apparent that the EPO cannot go on like this



  25. Links 30/11/2016: Git 2.11, GOG Surprise Tomorrow

    Links for the day



  26. The UPC Scam Part IV: Bumps Along the Road for UPC, With or Without the UK and Brexit

    A sobering reality check regarding the UPC, no matter what Lucy Neville-Rolfe says under pressure from Battistelli and some selfish law firms that are based in London



  27. The UPC Scam Part III: The “Patent Mafia”

    Bigwigs like Lucy Neville-Rolfe and Benoît Battistelli, together with Team UPC and its tiny minority interests (self enrichment), are conspiring to hijack the laws of Europe, doing so across many national borders with unique and locally-steered patent policy in one fell swoop



  28. The UPC Scam Part II: The Patent Echo Chamber at Work, Prematurely Congratulating Itself in Its 'News' Sites





  29. The UPC Scam Part I: EPO-Bribed Media Outlets Lie to Brits (and to Europeans) About the UPC

    An introductory article in a multi-part series about UPC at times of Brexit and Lucy Neville-Rolfe's bizarre sellout to Battistelli



  30. European Public Service Union Asks EPO Administrative Council “to Re-establish the Rule of Law at the European Patent Office”

    The chinchillas of the Administrative Council are assertively asked to tackle the abusive management of the EPO, which gets condemned not only by CERN but also EPSU, which is working with the Dutch government to end lawlessness at the EPO


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts